First Love as Walking in Accidental Stilettos

If in the terrain of I jessup
in a starched Sunday dress sinless
& lamblike they can’t help ogle
politely into handkerchiefs
like let me wipe that dust from my eyes
their coughs not phlegmless pocketed
from sight then a line of them gleams
in bright light woolen suits stifling
as saunas like they’ve been waiting their
whole lives to be baptized in sweat
how many times you’ve spent your last
dime the wallet’s empty bloatedness
a metaphor for longing or
foolishness I can’t decide
how many times you’ve been late
on the rent? the jury is verdictless
waiting in the restroom of a CVS
for the pee stick test’s blue sign of the cross
or its negative red, not the relentless
summertime hue of a field of blooms
he loves me, he loves me not

ELLEN KOMBIYIL is the author of Histories of the Future Perfect (2015). She is a recent transplant from Bangalore, India, where she lived for nearly eleven years, teaching creative writing and yoga. A fellow at the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program in 2013, Kombiyil’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, BOOTH, Spillway, and Poemeleon, among others. She is a four-time Pushcart Prize nominee, a Best of the Net nominee, and has read, performed or taught workshops at the annual Prakriti Poetry festival in Chennai, the Raedleaf Poetry Awards in Hyderabad, and Lekhana in Bangalore. She is the co-Founder of The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective, a mentorship-model poetry press, publishing innovative voices from India/Indian diaspora. Originally from Syracuse, New York, and a graduate of the University of Chicago, she now lives in New York City with her husband and two children.